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NATCHEZ BURNING: A Novel ~Greg Iles

Wednesday, August 24th, 2016

The first book in a trilogy that will just knock you over it is so compelling and non-stop.  The action and history is condensed into an 800-page turner of a book, which fills in history and the violence of the 1960s that continues into 2005.

NATCHES BURNING was sent to me by TLC Book Tours and I have to admit I was not too thrilled as I was already reviewing 7 books for them this month and this gem was 800 pages and part of a 3 way deal.  Whew!   I am not hugely a fan of thrillers either although this one had some historic merit, which found me interested.  Then I read what Stephen King wrote on the cover:

“ Natchez Burning is extraordinarily entertaining and fiendishly suspenseful.  I defy you to start it and find a way to put it down; as long as it is, I wished it were longer.  There’s a bonus: You’ll finish knowing a great deal about the Deep South’s painful struggle toward racial equality, and the bloody road between Then and Now.  Only a southern man could have written this book, and thank God Greg Iles was there to do the job.  This is an amazing work of popular fiction.”

There was so much history in this story from the killing of the voter registration workers in 1964 to present day distress and unequal treatment.  The torture and murder of anyone of color, and others, who got in the way or seemed funky to the KKK and the wealthy scheming whites were just what one thought was going on in the back of the mind.  And yet, the FBI and police could not seem to find the guilty parties or justice.

Iles has lived in Natchez, Mississippi all of his life and the book is full of characters that his fans have known before.  Dr. Tom Cage is a physician who has served all of his community with his medical care, which involved the keeping of many secrets. Dr. Cage’s son Penn is a lawyer, writer and now Mayor of Natchez and is working to solve the charges against his father.  Henry Sexton is a reporter who has faithfully kept the research and storytelling alive about the murders, fires and rape which throughout his history has plagued the community and threatened every member of the society with prejudice and hate.  Dr. Cage is loosely based on Iles own father, and the newspaperman is based on a fellow who has written the stories in his own paper in town and is about to write his own book on what he knows.

The book is extremely hard to put down and I read the whole in 3 days of hard pressure.  I can actually say that I am looking forward to THE BONE TREE, which I will review next month; book two in the trilogy I must wait until March for book three.

Even thought it contains a great deal of history, I know one of my book groups will not read it because of the violence and another because they have a 400 page limit.  It is a thriller and it contains a great deal of violence; it reveals a great deal of the context that I always thought was true but has been bred into the culture and will take a great teacher to heal and a determined citizen to break through.  Greg Iles breaks through and opens a door to re-enculturation.  NATCHEZ BURNING – What a Read!

“Greg Iles spent most of his youth in Natchez, Mississippi.  His first novel, SPANDAU PHOENIX, was the first of thirteen NEW YORK TIMES bestsellers, and his new trilogy continues the story of Penn Cage, protagonist of THE QUIET GAME, TURNING ANGEL, AND #1 NY TIMES bestseller THE DEVIL’S PUNCHBOWL. Iles novels have been made into films and published in more than thirty-five countries. He lives in Natchez with his wife and has two children.”

www.GregIles.com

Related:
The Contractors
The Fury
The Shock Doctrine

THE BURIED BOOK: A Novel ~D.M. Pulley

Monday, August 22nd, 2016

D.M. Pulley wrote THE DEAD KEY that I reviewed several years ago.  It was a fascinating study of corruption that was part of an old bank scheduled to be demolished.  It was difficult to get into and yet there I was hooked into reading every page and the story was excellent.

“The author is a professional engineer from Shaker Heights, Ohio, who specializes in rehabbing historic structures as well as conducting forensic investigations of building failures.  Pulley’s structural survey of an abandoned building in Cleveland formed the basis for her debut novel.” (Cover)

THE BURIED BOOK starts off a huge leap as nervous Althea Leary drops her son, Jasper, off at her brother’s farm about 60 miles from Detroit.  He is left with a suitcase holding a change of clothes and a children’s Bible.  It is August of 1952 and Althea is in a huge hurry to escape something.   Everyone is confused but falls into place with the farm routines and helping Jasper fit into the schedule.  The cabin is small with almost no privacy.

Jasper is finding the farm chores rigorous and yet he is enjoying the work and the learning.  He is very confused by his Mother’s departure and when she does not return and her car is found abandoned or hidden the stress pushes him into hunting for her.  At a burned down farmhouse, he finds a journal written by Althea when she was a young girl.  The journal details how she was blackmailed into doing the bidding of bootlegger/wealthy farmer and this awfulness continued throughout her life.

The book is quite the page-turner, as I was kept invested in the story and what would happen to Jasper and his family.  We are also learning about what was happening to the Native American’s who were on a reservation in the area of the farm.  The prejudices and the fear of the people in the area are very much exploited by the drug runners and mafia people dealing with prohibition.  Poverty is a theme that underlies the entire story.

Pulley writes like an engineer; precise, mathematical, descriptive and dense.  The story moves forward until the riddle is solved and we find Jasper’s Mother and bring her home.

Fire was an important component of the story and I am still sorting out its meaning and reference.  It was a potent threat.

This good read was sent to my Kindle by TLC Book Tours for review.

Related:
The Dead Key
In Doubt
Shady Cross

THE CHRISTOS MOSAIC: A Novel ~Vincent Czyz

Thursday, March 24th, 2016

Batten down the hatches and get set for a spectacular read and thrilling adventure in the same league as the DAVINCI CODE and other well written conspiracy theories. An imaginative romp through the serious efforts of theological pursuits, Dead Sea Scrolls and the Life of Jesus theorists; includes car chases and foreign locations.

“Author Vincent Czyz takes the reader through the backstreets of Istanbul, Antakya (ancient Antioch), and Cairo, to clandestine negotiations with wealthy antiquities smugglers and ruthless soldiers of fortune, to dusty Egyptian monasteries, on a nautical skirmish off the coast of Alexandria, and finally to the ruins of Constantine’s palace buried deep beneath the streets of present-day Istanbul. “ (Amazon’s page)

Drew, an expat living in Turkey is working to get back with his ex-wife.  He is a Biblical scholar who majored in Literature in college.  He connects with Kadir, a dwarf antiquities dealer on ‘the street of used books’ in Istanbul who is with Zafer, an ex-military special forces operative, working together to retrieve a newly discovered Dead Sea Scroll and another parchment, which will change history and the Christian Church; making this team a tremendous amount of money.  There are a significant number of people who do not want these scrolls to be made public or have them given to the academic sphere.  Drew is valuable to the team as he assists their efforts and shows them how to get the scrolls to the academic world/rightful owners and also for them to make lots of money.

The book is very intelligent and Drew is continuously studying his college classwork, purchasing new historic works and thinking through what he is learning.  His curiosity is very keenly attuned and he pulls together some amazing concepts and intellectual discourse.  The story is also about relationships and emotions working towards saving the marriage and the manipulations of truths by violence, anger, and deceit. We are within the study of how to get to the core of basic human interaction and the core of an historic study to identify the beliefs and the “realness” of the story that one is experiencing.

I enjoyed this fast paced book from start to finish and it was quite a challenge to recall the hours and lessons of graduate school, where I was delving into church history and theology as it relates to the stories, which promote our confessions of faith and serve our belief systems.  What makes a person challenge or change their minds or act in new and different ways?  How do individuals love and find their deepest truths?   Well versed in traditions and full of imagination and fictionalizations, THE CHRISTOS MOSAIC is an intense and high-powered encyclopedic read.  I would read it again.  Better than the DAVINCI CODE.

TLC Book Tours sent me an advance uncorrected proof of this book for review.  I thought it was great and I so enjoy stories that activate the mind and make one think; producing new ideas, affirming possibilities.

From TLC books about the author:

“Vincent Czyz is the author of The Christos Mosaic, a novel, and Adrift in a Vanishing City, a collection of short fiction. He received two fellowships from the NJ Council on the Arts and the W. Faulkner-W. Wisdom Prize for Short Fiction. The 2011 Truman Capote Fellow at Rutgers University, his stories and essays have appeared in New England Review, Shenandoah, AGNI, The Massachusetts Review, Tin House (online), Boston Review, Quiddity, The Tampa Review, The Georgetown Review, and Skidrow Penthouse, among other publications. He spent a total of nearly a decade in Istanbul, Turkey before settling in Jersey City. His work often deals with the existential themes found in art, myth and religion, dreams, and primal ways of perceiving the world.”

Related:
Ayesha Ryder
The Signature of All Things
The Lemon Tree

THE QUESTION?: A Thriller for the Curious ~R. Breuer Stearns

Monday, December 28th, 2015

“If You Could have the Answer to Only One Question, What Would You Ask?”

“And Who Might Try to Stop You From Asking It?”

THE QUESTION is ideal reading for anyone who is curious . . . for those who gaze into the cosmos at night and wonder . . . for those who look into the mirror and imagine . . . for those whose hearts beat faster when confronting the unknown . . . for readers who enjoy a fast paced, contemporary thriller that inspires them to think.” (From Media Kit)

I was hooked right away into this fast-paced book and reading this book did cause me to think and offer up some of my own ideas.  I realized how so few folks in my life these days are able to hold a discussion about any subject or they rather offer up canned thoughts and ideas and are unable to defend or even understand what they are saying.  I was caught up with the two characters, which were constantly thinking and problem-solving and searching for new solutions within their field of work.

Nate is a grown up football star, who now works for the Navy helping Submarine Crews problem-solve disasters which he designs to test them within a research facility.  He is there to help the top brass figure out how to save lives in an emergency or disaster.  He sees a pattern of success when the Commanders are able to work as a team, take a deep breath and figure out “what” will remedy the situation.  It is a new form of communication system – a mind meld.  The minds in conjunction with each other are finding solutions very quickly and having remarkable success.

I can understand why this book is recommended for high school students as they might be able to still be taught to thinking and reason about this story and rediscover their innate curiosity.  One of my book groups would truly enjoy this story for the good thinking and discussion starters, but they do not read thrillers and several events in the story would turn them off to the read.   My other book group would be unable to discuss this story except on the surface and they do not understand enough history to dive deeply into the possibilities.  The attacks would not be distracting to the story because they know those from recent history.   Because the book is written in a style similar to the various scenes of a movie or TV series, I might be able to pull them into some new thinking or possibilities.  This makes me consider choosing THE QUESTION for them to try on and explore.

How does one save lives when a submarine is attacked or damaged? – How does one prevent the problem? – How does a person prevent a terrorist attack or keep it from happening?   Who will work with you and seek answers?

I give this book very high marks and know it will make a great recommendations for my regular readers who love thrillers.   I did have one problem with this story, one of the attacks and all the thinking I was doing left me awake all night it was so vivid and I wished I could have talked to someone about how to stop such a horrible experience from happening; I was also thinking about the Sandy Hook School Shooting. (I am writing this review on the 3 year anniversary of that act of terrorism).  This scene and this news story stays with me and I keep working on how to stop it from happening ever again.

About the Author

“R. Breuer Stearns is an investor and author.

Mr. Stearns graduated from Phillips Academy, Andover (1970), Harvard University (AB, 1974), University of Chicago (MBA, 1977), and DePaul University College of Law (JD, 1979). He rapidly ascended on Wall Street in the 1980’s, serving as Managing Director, Mergers & Acquisitions at Lehman Brothers and Head of Investment Banking (North America) at UBS Securities.  While living in New York, he founded “Terrific Teachers, Inc.,” a foundation dedicated to identifying and rewarding the best of the best of the city’s public high school teachers.

Shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Mr. Stearns launched a private investment bank in the former Soviet Union.  He spent the early 1990’s seeking to marry emerging science, primarily emanating from Russia’s Defense sector, with Western capital.  During this period, Mr. Stearns made a small fortune, albeit from a larger one.  The venture provided a remarkable lesson in hubris, a tremendous reservoir of internal strength, and first-hand source material for Mr. Stearns’ first book, Winning Smart After Losing Big (Encounter Books, Beijing University Press).

Subsequently, Mr. Stearns served as Chief Financial Officer of The Dial Corporation, Chief Financial Officer of Columbia/HCA Corporation, Chief Financial Officer of PacifiCare, Inc., President and Chief Operating Officer of Vascular Genetics, Inc., and Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Quepasa Corporation (QPSA: Amex).

Mr. Stearns is a Founder of VestaPoint Capital LLC, a family of investment funds focused on real estate development.  He lives in Arizona with his wife, two dogs, two cats, and a horse.  He travels extensively and is intensely curious.” (From Media Kit)

R. Breuer Stearns Website

Laura Fabiani of iReadBookTours sent me a copy of this book for review.    It was well worth the read.  Thank you.

Related:
Dig Two Graves
Coercion
Ryder: Birds of Prey
The Fury